Meeting helps identify victims of mudslides

Some canyon residents angry at city, Caltrans after flooding damaged their homes.

January 06, 2011|By Barbara Diamond

Dede Westgaard-Pike wept on Dec. 31 as she relived a night of terror and anguish suffered by her neighbors on Dec. 22.

Westgaard-Pike was among the folks — many less fortunate than her family, whose home was not damaged — who attended a meeting called by City Manager John Pietig to identify, locate and determine the needs of the families devastated by the mudslides and flooding.

They talked. The council and representatives of the Laguna Relief and Resource Coalition listened.

"Hearing your stories tugs at our heartstrings," said Ed Sauls, past president of the coalition board.

Some of the speakers were angry, some fearful, some grateful, and some had proposals they thought could ameliorate the periodic inundations or at least make them easier to handle.


Westgaard-Pike, for one, felt the city had failed the canyon residents.

"They got the sea lions out, they got the dogs out, but they didn't get the people out," Westgaard-Pike said.

However, the Pikes were able to prevent a tragedy for one family.

"We heard screams and my husband ran out and he was immediately in four feet of water," Westgaard-Pike said.

The screams came from a neighbor with her two children in a truck stalled by flood. Westgaard-Pike's husband and sons rushed to the neighbor's rescue. They jerry-rigged a hose as a lifeline from the truck to their house.

She used profanity when describing the situation, then apologized for her language. But the laughter in response eased some of the palpable hostility in the packed City Council Chamber.

In contrast, Carol Yuri, who owns three houses at Big Bend, thanked the city for emergency services that she said saved two families by boat, one of the families up a tree.

Although Laguna Canyon was hardest hit, other areas also needed assistance.

David Gerrard said the storm drains on Park Avenue were clogged by debris carried downhill by a 20-foot wide, 3-foot-deep flow of water.

Griffith Way flooded. Residents of Hidden Valley had to be evacuated, Robin Young said.

The relief and resource center had identified by Tuesday 48 families affected by the Dec. 22 flooding and debris vegetation, pieces of structures caught in the mud and water cascading downhill.

Eighteen families are known to have been displaced and more than 30 homes damaged.

No one was killed, although it was a close call in some cases.

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